Bad flu season ahead

A recent survey suggests almost four in 10 B.C. residents don't plan on getting a flu shot this year.

Pharmacists are warning the public that a potential difficult flu season could lie ahead due to potentially delayed vaccines in addition to an early, aggressive strain in Australia.

"We do think vaccines may show up later than usual and reports from Australia are that there was a particularly virulent strain, so we need to prepare ourselves accordingly," said Kelowna London Drugs pharmacist Zach Stevens.

Strains that prevail in the North American season are based on the typical prevalent strains in the southern hemisphere.

With the Insights West survey suggesting 36 per cent of residents are not planning on getting a flu shot based on misconceptions including its effectiveness, pharmacists are concerned.

"We try to increase our awareness every year, and we always have to be vigilant in educating the public to let them know the higher the percentage of the population that's vaccinated every year, it helps to build the herd immunity such that those most at risk are protected," said Stevens.

"That's going to include having people who consider themselves relatively healthy also getting vaccinated to protect those around them, such as the elderly, children or those with chronic health conditions."

The poll also showed 83 per cent of B.C. residents are aware the flu vaccine saves lives, and more adults are convinced that getting the flu shot is a good idea, with 12 per cent of residents who have never previously had a flu shot before planning on getting one this year.

"Getting vaccinated is still our best defence against a virus," said Stevens. "All things considered, it's a very safe, very effective and increasingly convenient way to protect yourself and your family members."

It is expected that flu shot appointments will be available in the Okanagan by mid-October.

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